I came across an interesting little cartoon yesterday. It was Tweeted by my new friend Andreas Beccai. The cartoon is below. It was created by Saji George, who has a series of cartoons that deal with issues of faith. I think it is a clever cartoon that reveals a lot of our biases and myopia.
As I said, I think the cartoon is clever and thought-provoking. It starts a good dialogue about these important matters. However, I think it is a little misguided. Nothing against its creator.This seems to be a pretty typical view that many non-Adventists, and especially non-religious people, have. Sadly, it is also a view that Seventh-day Adventists are increasingly subscribing to. From the classic Adventist perspective, however, it was clearly created by someone who has never read The Great Controversy – which I happen to think is a reflection of the biblical worldview (or, more accurately, the biblical “universeview”).
I realize that one of Adventism’s greatest challenges is that it comes across as being arrogant. This is unfortunate. This was, however, the same problem Israel had. It did not change the fact that they were still God’s chosen people and, truthfully, arrogance is more a reflection of a misunderstanding of what it means to be “chosen,” rather than the truth of one’s chosen-ness. To be a part of God’s “chosen” is less (in fact, not at all) about being saved as it is about being responsible. So the “remnant” concept is missional in nature, not salvational.
This doesn’t deny the fact that God has people in all faiths and perspectives (see John 10:16, reading the whole verse). Nor is it to say that Israel (or, by way of extension, Adventism) is any better than anyone else or more loved by God. It simply says that we have a greater responsibility.
Anyway, this cartoon got me thinking about how I would diagram the history of Christianity and the appropriate attitude one should have in relation to that perspective. So here is what I created. It is not exhaustive. In some ways it is simplistic (then again, so is the original cartoon). In other ways it demands exhaustive explanation. But see if it makes sense to you (I hope I am not violating any copyright issues):
A few bullet-point explanations:
- This diagram is, in no way, fit to scale as it relates to the periods of Christian history.
- Though some may have a hard time understanding the concept, this diagram – and the point of Christianity – is theocentric (ie., God-centered). When one recognizes the “Great Controversy” theme in scripture, it places the “true church/remnant” concept in perspective.
- This diagram represents systems of doctrine about God, not necessarily the behavior reflected in the lives of all those who espouse those particular doctrines.
- The end goal of Christianity is not only to match the level of the New Testament Church – both in doctrine and in praxis – but excel it, thus vindicating God in the Great Controversy. We are not there yet, of course. In fact, I do not think we have even matched the level of the NT church. But I think we are heading in that direction, by God’s grace.
- By God’s grace, not only will the truth about God’s character be fully restored, but the lives of God’s followers will be reflective of that truth. In other words, God’s character of love will be fully reflected in God’s followers. Perhaps more accurately, the truth about God’s character will fully be restored when that truth is seen in the lives of His followers. But this truth can only be seen in the lives of His followers when those followers first understand that truth about Him. So the truth about God and fruit in the life of His followers go hand-in-hand.
- In case you didn’t pick up on it, some of the branches of Christianity are now going backward instead of moving forward!
- If the diagram were to be completed prophetically according to the book of Revelation, there would end up being only two lines within Christianity – God’s true church and Satan’s counterfeit. Perhaps even more startling is the fact that the counterfeit would not only include all of apostate Christianity, but every fallen system of truth (ie., systems of lies).
- Again, this is not to say that people who are presently in those “fallen systems” are bad or lost. It’s just that God is now inviting them to “Come out of her, my people” (Revelation 18:4) and be a part of a movement that teaches and lives the full truth of God’s character of love – which is what Adventism as a system of truth, I do believe, is working towards. I say this with no arrogance or malice. Just trying to be faithful to what scripture teaches.